Hayek was born Salma Hayek Jiménez in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her younger brother, Sami (born 1972), is a furniture designer. Her mother, Diana Jiménez Medina, is an opera singer and talent scout. Her father, Sami Hayek Domínguez, is an oil company executive and owner of an industrial-equipment firm, who once ran for mayor of Coatzacoalcos. Her father is a Mexican of Lebanese descent, with his family being from the city Baabdat, Lebanon, a city Salma and her father visited in 2015 to promote her movie Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Her mother is a Mexican of Spanish descent. In an interview in 2015 with Un Nuevo Día while visiting Madrid, Hayek described herself as fifty-percent Lebanese and fifty-percent Spanish, stating that her grandmother/maternal great-grandparents were from Spain. Raised in a wealthy, devout Roman Catholic family, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, USA, at the age of twelve. In school, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. She attended university in Mexico City, where she studied International Relations at the Universidad Iberoamericana.
At the age of 23, Hayek landed the title role in Teresa (1989), a successful Mexican telenovela that made her a star in Mexico. In 1994, Hayek starred in the film El Callejón de los Milagros (Miracle Alley), which has won more awards than any other movie in the history of Mexican cinema. For her performance, Hayek was nominated for an Ariel Award.
Hayek moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1991 to study acting under Stella Adler. She had limited fluency in English, and dyslexia. Robert Rodriguez, and his producer and then-wife, Elizabeth Avellan, soon gave Hayek a starring role opposite Antonio Banderas in 1995's Desperado. She followed her role in Desperado with a brief role as a vampire queen in From Dusk till Dawn, in which she performed a table-top snake dance.
Hayek had a starring role opposite Matthew Perry in the 1997 romantic comedy Fools Rush In. In 1999 she co-starred in Will Smith's big-budget Wild Wild West, and played a supporting role in Kevin Smith's Dogma. In 2000 Hayek had an uncredited acting part opposite Benicio del Toro in Traffic. In 2003, she reprised her role from Desperado by appearing in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the final film of the Mariachi Trilogy.
Around 2000, Hayek founded film production company Ventanarosa, through which she produces film and television projects. Her first feature as a producer was 1999's El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba, Mexico's official selection for submission for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.
Frida, co-produced by Hayek, was released in 2002. Starring Hayek as Frida Kahlo, and Alfred Molina as her unfaithful husband, Diego Rivera, the film was directed by Julie Taymor and featured an entourage of stars in supporting and minor roles (Valeria Golino, Ashley Judd, Edward Norton, Geoffrey Rush) and cameos (Antonio Banderas). She earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance.
In the Time of the Butterflies is a 2001 feature film based on the Julia Álvarez book of the same name, covering the lives of the Mirabal sisters. In the movie, Salma Hayek plays one of the sisters, Minerva, and Edward James Olmos plays the Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo whom the sisters opposed.
In 2003, Hayek produced and directed The Maldonado Miracle, a Showtime movie based on the book of the same name, winning her a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Children/Youth/Family Special. In December 2005, she directed a music video for Prince, titled "Te Amo Corazon" ("I love you, sweetheart") that featured Mía Maestro.
Hayek was an executive producer of Ugly Betty, a television series that aired around the world from 2006 to 2010. Hayek adapted the series for American television with Ben Silverman, who acquired the rights and scripts from the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea in 2001. Originally intended as a half-hour sitcom for NBC in 2004, the project would later be picked up by ABC for the 2006–2007 season with Silvio Horta also producing. Hayek guest-starred on Ugly Betty as Sofia Reyes, a magazine editor. She also had a cameo playing an actress in the telenovela within the show. The show won a Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy Series in 2007. Hayek's performance as Sofia resulted in a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards.
In April 2007, Hayek finalized negotiations with MGM to become the CEO of her own Latin-themed film production company, Ventanarosa. The following month, she signed a two-year deal with ABC for Ventanarosa to develop projects for the network.
Hayek played the wife of Adam Sandler's character in the buddy comedy Grown Ups, which also co-starred Chris Rock and Kevin James. At his insistence, Hayek co-starred with Antonio Banderas in the Shrek spin-off film Puss in Boots as the voice of the character Kitty Softpaws, who serves as Puss's female counterpart and love interest. In 2012, Hayek directed Jada Pinkett Smith in the music video "Nada se compara." She reprised her role in Grown Ups 2, which was released in July 2013.
Hayek has been a spokeswoman for Avon cosmetics since February 2004. She was a spokeswoman for Revlon in 1998. In 2001, she modeled for Chopard and was featured in 2006 Campari ads, photographed by Mario Testino. On April 3, 2009, she helped introduce La Doña, a watch by Cartier inspired by fellow Mexican actress María Félix.
Hayek has worked with the Procter & Gamble Company and UNICEF to promote the funding (through disposable diaper sales) of vaccines against maternal and neonatal tetanus. She is a global spokesperson for the Pampers/UNICEF "partnership" 1 Pack = 1 Vaccine to help raise awareness of the program. This "partnership" involves Procter & Gamble donating the cost of one tetanus vaccination (approximately 24 cents) for every pack of Pampers sold.
In 2011, Hayek launched her own line of cosmetics, skincare, and haircare products called Nuance by Salma Hayek, to be sold at CVS stores in North America. Hayek was also featured in a series of Spanish language commercials for Lincoln cars.
In spring 2006, the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, Texas displayed sixteen portrait paintings by muralist George Yepes and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez of Hayek as Aztec goddess Itzpapalotl.
Hayek is a naturalized United States citizen. She studied at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment and is a practitioner of yoga. Hayek, who was raised Catholic, has said she is not very devout anymore and does not believe in the institution (Church), but still believes in Jesus Christ and God.
On March 9, 2007, Hayek confirmed her engagement to French billionaire and Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault as well as her pregnancy. She gave birth to daughter Valentina Paloma Pinault in September 2007 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. They were married on Valentine's Day 2009 in Paris. On April 25, 2009, they had a second ceremony in Venice.
In July 2011, Hayek's husband was named in a paternity case. According to reports, Pinault is the father of supermodel Linda Evangelista's son, Augustin James, who was born in October 2006. He denied all allegations, although he later reached a settlement with Evangelista.
Hayek's charitable work includes increasing awareness on violence against women and discrimination against immigrants. On July 19, 2005, Hayek testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary supporting reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. In February 2006, she donated $25,000 to a Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, shelter for battered women and another $50,000 to Monterrey based anti-domestic violence groups. Hayek is a board member of V-Day, the charity founded by playwright Eve Ensler. Nonetheless, Hayek has stated that she is not a feminist. She later revised her stance on this, stating: "I am a feminist because a lot of amazing women have made me who I am today. (...) But – it should not be just because I am a woman.".
Hayek also advocates breastfeeding. During a UNICEF fact-finding trip to Sierra Leone, she breastfed a hungry week-old baby whose mother could not produce milk. She said she did it to reduce the stigma associated with breastfeeding and to encourage infant nutrition.
In 2010 Hayek's humanitarian work earned her a nomination for the VH1 Do Something Awards. In 2013 Hayek launched with Beyoncé and Frida Giannini a Gucci campaign, "Chime for Change", that aims to spread female empowerment.
For International Women's Day 2014 Hayek is one of the artist signatories of Amnesty International's letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron campaigning for women's rights in Afghanistan. Following her visit to Lebanon in 2015, she criticised the discrimination against women there.Recipient of Glamour magazine Woman of the Year Award in October 2001.Recipient of Producers Guild of America Celebration of Diversity Award in 2003.Recipient of Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year Award in February 2006.Recipient of Time magazine 25 Most Influential Hispanics in 2005.Knight (Chevalier) of the National Order of the Legion of Honour (France, December 30, 2011)
In July 2007, The Hollywood Reporter ranked Hayek fourth in their inaugural Latino Power 50, a list of the most powerful members of the Hollywood Latino community. That same month, a poll found Hayek to be the "sexiest celebrity" out of a field of 3,000 celebrities (male and female); according to the poll, "65 percent of the U.S. population would use the term 'sexy' to describe her". In 2008, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television In December of that year, Entertainment Weekly ranked Hayek number 17 in their list of the "25 Smartest People in TV."Was a member of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival jury.Co-hosted the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert with Julianne Moore in Oslo, Norway on December 11, 2005.